September 14, 2017 4:12 pm
Updated: May 18, 2018 3:27 pm

Lacolle border agents, RCMP to stay another year amid spike of asylum seekers

WATCH: RCMP officers could remain at the border in St-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec for up to year as asylum seekers continue to cross illegally. The Canadian government confirms the Mounties will remain there for as long as necessary, renewing calls to make the Roxham Road crossing a permanent port of entry. Mike Le Couteur reports.

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Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) agents and RCMP officers could be at the Canada-U.S. border in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que. for at least another year.

A trailer has been in place for weeks, and another could be added soon as officials get ready for a possible influx of asylum seekers, even as winter approaches.

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READ MORE: With spike in asylum seekers, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium to be used as shelter

“We were basically given an indication that it will probably be set up for about a year, throughout the winter,” explained Daniel Striletsky, town manager of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

“When the peak of the crisis was in effect, there were a lot of people crossing over — from a trickle to basically a wave where the tents were set up.”

Thousands of asylum seekers have crossed the border in recent months — almost 3,000 people in July alone.

That is a 284 per cent increase compared to June, and a more than 1,000 per cent increase from January, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

READ MORE: All kids should have access to education, despite their legal status, says Quebec

“The issue is evolving; the numbers fluctuate, but they will continue to be in a position to properly enforce Canadian law and to make sure our border obligations are fully fulfilled,” said Ralph Goodale, federal public safety minister.

WATCH: Spike in asylum seekers to Canada

A recent CBSA intelligence report obtained by Global News warns that thousands of additional claimants could soon be crossing into the country.

The briefing states over 300,000 foreign nationals from Haiti, Syria, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras could soon see their temporary protection status (TPS) revoked — they are expected to expire in 2018.

TPS is designated if a country is in an:

  • Ongoing armed conflict (like civil war)
  • Environmental disaster (like earthquake or hurricane)
  • Epidemic
  • Other extraordinary, temporary conditions

It states that these people cannot be removed from the U.S., are allowed to obtain employment documents and travel authorization.

READ MORE: Quebec preparing to dole out welfare cheques to asylum seekers

“They’re setting up on a more permanent basis; they put in an electric line so they can have more visibility,” Striletsky said.

“Also, there’s a rumour that they’re going to have trailers installed where the tents are. I don’t know whether it’s going to happen or not, or if it’s going to happen.”

READ MORE: ‘There is no guarantee,’ Couillard warns would-be asylum seekers

Internally, the RCMP are calling it a “temporary satellite detachment” and the trailer for initial processing will be heated going into the winter months.

Ground around the tents is also being paved; Striletsky explained the town had been asking for this for a while.

“The paving was already planned two or three years ago. The only thing we did was, it was postponed til about just about last week,” Striletsky told Global News.

The ditch, which was dug to prevent people from crossing illegally, will stay as it is.

Striletsky said he worries if the U.S. doesn’t renew the temporary protection statuses for these countries, there will be a bigger influx of claimants.

The Conservatives are calling on the government to transform the Roxham Road crossing into an official port of entry.

“Wherein the Safe Third Country Agreement would apply, that would give more tools to the RCMP and CBSA to permanently deter people from making this unsafe journey,” said  Michelle Rempel, a Conservative MP for Calgary Nose Hill.

Goodale argues it isn’t that easy.

READ MORE: More than half of Canadians think Ottawa isn’t in control of refugee issue in Quebec, according to Ipsos poll

“In order for a border crossing to be official, it has to exist on both sides of the border,” he told Global News.

“The authority exists in Canadian law to create new border crossings, but it’s a bit of a pyrrhic exercise if there’s no one right across the line on the American side to deal with.”

Nevertheless, Rempel insists claimants should not be allowed to illegally cross the border “at any point of entry to make an asylum claim.”

WATCH BELOW: Asylum seekers cross the border at Lacolle

In 2002, Canada and the U.S. signed the agreement that would force refugee claimants to request protection in the first safe country they land so they can’t cross the border or apply in both countries at the same time.

She insists the delay to process claims is too long — years, instead of days or weeks at the most.

“The government does not have this under control, there is no evidence of that and the Prime Minister needs to be held accountable for that lack of action,” Rempel told Global News.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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